In the last few months, I’ve finished school for the summer, gotten my wisdom teeth out, and moved back home to spend time with family before my next big adventure. That has added up to a whole lot of time watching Netflix and chilling out– it was much needed and well-deserved. I love bingeing series as much as the next person (Riverdale and Jane the Virgin are my go-to’s), but I also like making my Netflix time worthwhile by watching interesting, eye-opening, and educational documentaries. I love to learn, and I love diving into a good controversy.
Here are seven that I have watched that I think you should too. Unfortunately, most of them are American, but they are still super relevant to Canadian society and everyday life. I promise, these are legitimate recommendations– I watched a whole lot of poorly produced, unjustly biased, and just plain fake movies to come up with this list.
I Am Jane Doe
Written, directed, and produced by Mary Mazzio, and narrated by Jessica Chastain, this 2017 film dives into the legal battle between mothers of young American girls and BackPage.com. If you are unfamiliar, BackPage.com is a classifieds site known, sadly, for its role in facilitating the sex trafficking of underaged girls. This documentary is a call-to-action and a rude awakening for anyone who thinks that sex trafficking doesn’t exist in the Western world. Because it does– right before our eyes. Heartbreaking but hopeful, ‘I Am Jane Doe’ is a great way to get yourself up to date with American politics surrounding the safety of youth and white-collar crime.
They Call Us Monsters
This is a film that looks at the upsetting issue of children with life sentences. These young boys are not the picture of stereotypical violent offenders– they’re just kids. Kids who are being tried as adults for violent acts. This film highlights advances in sentence reform, essentially laws being passed to give these kids a second chance at life, and calls for more action towards this issue. Although Canada doesn’t deal with young offenders this way, it is still interesting (and super important) to know what happens in other parts of the world.
Directed and produced by Elaine McMillion Sheldon, this film was nominated for an Academy Award– and for good reason. The documentary follows three women in the same West Virginia town; a fire chief, a judge, and a community organization leader who are working on the issue of addiction and overdose in their own important ways. This film not only features badass women who are making a difference, but it will teach you about the cycle of addiction, how people struggle to come out of that rut, how they get there in the first place, and why we shouldn’t be so quick to make harsh judgments. This was truly a spectacular film.
Yay! Finally a happy movie on this list! Felix Starck and Selima Taibi, both from Germany, along with their dog Rudi, head to North America for the ultimate road trip adventure. In search of happiness and a break from 9 to 5 life, the three set off in a restored school bus through Canada, the US, and Mexico. Facing lots of difficulties along the way but also experiencing so many incredible adventures and breathtaking places, by the end of their travels the duo seem to discover what happiness is to them. This film will make you want to travel, so be prepared for some heartwrenching wanderlust. Watch this doc if you want to have a smile on your face.
Warning: don’t eat while you watch this film. ‘Food, Inc.’ exposes many facets of the commercial food industry and how we really don’t know where much of the food from our grocery store comes from, how it is produced, and what (or who) suffers from our purchases. It is upsetting, uncomfortable, and disturbing to watch– but it shares valuable information and perspectives that we wouldn’t be told otherwise. The film’s tagline is ‘you’ll never look at dinner the same way’ and that is a truth. You’ll certainly be inspired to make more local choices in your grocery shopping after watching it, which is what makes this film so important.
According to Time Magazine, Seaworld’s profits dropped 84% after the release of ‘Blackfish,’ a film about the controversial treatment of their Orca whales. The filmmakers interview past Seaworld trainers and examine cases of injuries and deaths caused by the whales in several parks. This is an emotional film that truly challenges us to consider the impact the animal entertainment industry has on the wellbeing of the creatures and their trainers. I can honestly say that I will never support a SeaWorld franchise or any similar company again. Director/producer Gabriela Copperwaithe has spurred change without sensationalizing– she nailed it.
The Rachel Divide
After watching this film, I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I am not able to conclude, personally, whether this film actually has a real impact (positive or negative) on society and I can’t really figure out my stance on the issue– yet. I need to do more research. But that being said, the documentary raises a lot of important questions about race and how the mere existence of the issues raised by this film says a lot about where our society stands. I will say that I believe that racial fluidity is a difficult concept for society as a whole to embrace when the impacts of racism and racial identity are still questioned. What I do appreciate about this film is how it calls for greater integrity and accountability in corporate and community organizational settings. Let’s start a conversation! Where do you stand and how do you feel after watching this film?
Let us know in the comments which ones you’ve watched and give your opinion, or share your recommendations with us! We love hearing from our readers.